Australia, Iran look to progress with all-win record

Australia, Iran look to progress with all-win record

QLNews
By QLNews

Group B toppers Australia will look to end their first-round matches of the AFC Asian Cup with an all-win record when they take on Uzbekistan at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday.

Syria, who have one point, and India, on zero, will also look to progress to the next round as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Group C leaders Iran will play second-placed UAE at the Education City Stadium while Palestine and Hong Kong will face each other at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium on Tuesday.

With the stakes sky-high for all teams involved, here is a look at how the different teams are poised for match day.

GROUP B
AUSTRALIA VS UZBEKISTAN

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium

Uzbekistan coach Srecko Katanec has ruled out Sherzod Nasrullaev from his side’s meeting with Australia while Socceroos striker Mitchell Duke will miss the game due to a hamstring injury.

Despite Nasrullaev’s absence, Katanec sounded confident his side will progress to the last 16. A draw will help Uzbekistan confirm their place in the knockout rounds for the sixth AFC Asian Cup in a row. However, even of they lose, they stand a chance of progressing as one of the best third-placed teams.

“I think there’s no pressure from my side, I try not to put pressure on the guys. We’re probably 90 percent qualified, even if we lose,” Katanec said.

Katanec believes his team will present a different challenge to the Australians after their wins over India and Syria and is wary of the Socceroos’ ability at set-pieces, where the height and presence of players such as Harry Souttar present a serious goal-scoring threat.

Arnold is expected to make changes to his starting line-up with Australia having confirmed their place in the last 16, and Duke will be among those missing after the Japan-based striker picked up a minor strain in the 1-0 win over Syria.

 “We played Uzbekistan in 2019, and we beat them in a penalty shootout. But I think both teams have improved enormously since then. And we’re looking forward to the game,” said Arnold.

GROUP B
SYRIA VS INDIA

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Al Bayt Stadium

India’s head coach Igor Stimac said he was delighted to have a full-strength squad at his disposal for their  do-or-die game against Syria on Tuesday.

The Blue Tigers, already grappling with the absence of key players coming into the tournament, found themselves further hampered by injuries in their first two games but with the likes of midfielder Abdul Samad back in training, the Croat is hopeful of a positive outcome at the Al Bayt Stadium.

“I’m pleased to have my whole squad back and am expecting a good match. It’s a crucial tie for both teams as we need to win to stand any chance of qualifying for the knockout stage,” said Stimac. 

The head coach also believes that India’s recent experience against Uzbekistan and Australia will stand them in good stead and is hopeful of collecting a win against Syria if his side can reduce their reaction time in the face of offensive charges.

“Syria have a number of players featuring in some of the top leagues in Europe, and they play a very classic 4-4-2 style of football. But many of their attributes, including their physical prowess, resembles that of Uzbek players and we’ll try to capitalise on the lessons learned from our last match,” he said.

Hector Cuper, aiming to make history by guiding Syria beyond the group stages for the first time, lauded the Qasioun Eagles’ performance in their last two matches and sees no urgent need to make changes.

“While we’re yet to register our first win, I think the team has been playing very well. I’m not the kind of coach that rotates players just for the sake of it. It’s important to have harmony in the team, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” said the Argentinian.

As both teams strive to score their first goal in Qatar, Cuper anticipates India adopting an aggressive playing style and urged his side to be ready for a high-pressing game from the South Asians.

GROUP C
HONG KONG VS PALESTINE

Kick-off: 6:00pm
Venue: Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium

Head coach Jorn Andersen wants Hong Kong to end their long wait for a win by defeating Palestine on Tuesday.

Hong Kong, who made their tournament debut in 1956, have yet to win an AFC Asian Cup match — a situation Palestine are also in, having first appeared on the continental stage in 2015. 

A first win for either side could mean a place in the knockout stage, with Palestine on a point after their draw with UAE while Hong Kong lost both their earlier matches. 

“After the first two games, we believe we performed well, and while we’re satisfied with our play, we’re disappointed to have earned zero points. Having observed Palestine, we’re optimistic about collecting the three points,” said the 60-year-old.

Despite their confidence-boosting performance against UAE, Palestine head coach Makram Daboub warned his team against underestimating Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong have proven to be a formidable and advanced team, performing well against UAE and Iran. Winning isn’t just an option, it’s a necessity for us. I’ve confidence in our players, and if we can replicate the second-half performance against UAE, we’ve a good chance of victory,” said Daboub.

GROUP C
UAE VS IRAN

Kick-off: 6:00pm
Venue: Education City Stadium

Head coach Paulo Bento highlighted intelligent play and humility as qualities his UAE side need if they are to get a result against Iran.

The UAE currently sit second in the group with four points to their name, but a defeat at Education City Stadium and other results going against them could see Bento’s men exit in the group stage for the first time since 2011.

After a convincing 3-1 win over Hong Kong in their opening fixture, the UAE were held to a 1-1 draw against Palestine in a game they finished with 10 men after defender Khalifa Al Hammadi was sent-off in the 37th minute. Bento also received a red card just before the final whistle, meaning he will be suspended for the Iran clash.

“Preparation for this match is going as normal. We’re trying to recover as much as possible. We prepared our strategy for the next game against one of the strongest teams in Asia and the strongest in our group. It’s a team that’s composed of very good, experienced players. They play together for a long time, and they don’t change their way of playing too much,” said Bento."

While Iran were one of the first teams to book their place in the next round, head coach Amir Ghalenoei acknowledged some problems faced in their last game against Hong Kong, insisting his side will not take things easy against the UAE.

“We’re happy we were able to qualify for the next round. Based on our analysis and statistics, we’d more than 70% possession and completed more than 200 passes against Hong Kong. But we did have some problems, our passing accuracy wasn’t great, we gave an opportunity to the opponents and their chances came from mistakes of our players,” said Ghalenoei.

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